- The Tasmanian devil is endangered due to a unique contagious cancer called Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD), which is transmitted between devils through biting and kills all infected devils within months.
- Since the disease was first detected in 1996, DFTD has spread across most of the State and devil numbers are estimated to have declined by over 80% (according to annual spotlight surveys). Some populations where the disease first emerged have declined by over 95%.
- DFTD first appears as small lumps in and around the mouth which develop into large tumours. These tumours cause death by limiting the ability of affected devils to eat, and by spreading throughout the body and causing breakdown of bodily functions. In most cases the devil’s immune system doesn’t react to the tumour cells because they are disguised and don’t appear foreign.
- An insurance and metapopulation of over 700 disease free devils has been established to guard against the species’ extinction. They are housed in over 40 zoos and wildlife parks in Australia and overseas as well as a in free range enclosures and island and peninsula sites which are managed by the STDP.
- The Wild Devil Recovery Project (WDR) is progressing. A trial to look at release techniques, vaccination efficacy to boost devil immunity to DFTD and introduce genetic diversity to incumbent wild Tasmanian devil populations, the first stage has now been completed and results from these trials will be used to supplement wild populations that have been ravaged by DFTD. Bolstering devil numbers and developing a successful vaccine will continue to be a critical priority for the management of the Tasmanian devil population and in the ongoing effort to secure a future for the species in the wild.
For further information, please see the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment's STDP website.